The Government of Yemen represented by H.E. Abdulkarim Al-Arhabi, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, and WFP represented by Mohamed El-Kouhene, WFP Representative in Yemen, today signed a Country Programme Action Plan for the period 2007-2011.
The Programmewill benefit one million Yemenis by helping to reduce poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition as well as narrowing the gender gap in education.
At a cost of US$48 million, the new five-year Country Programme will focus on expanding girls’ access to education and improving the health and nutritional status of malnourished children under five, pregnant and lactating women, and tuberculosis and leprosy patients.
“Food insecurity has reached crisis proportions in Yemen and over 50 percent of children under five are malnourished. WFP, in partnership with the Yemeni government and other UN agencies, will do its utmost effort to reduce these levels,” said El-Kouhene.
Scarce natural resources, combined with one of the highest population growth rates in the world, have contributed to Yemen’s economic difficulties.
Over 40 percent of the population live on less than US$2 per day and over 70 percent live in rural areas, where stagnating agricultural production has led to severe poverty and a high unemployment rate.
One of WFP’s activities under the project will be providing food rations as an incentive to encourage families to enrol their children, especially girls, in primary schools. It will also be expanded to include girls in secondary education.
“Girls’ education is as essential as it is for boys. They are at least half the future of this country as active members of the society who will ensure that the country can move forward,” added El-Kouhene.
Gender inequality in education is a problem especially evident in primary schools where the enrolment rate for girls is 61 percent compared to 86 percent for boys. The illiteracy rate for girls over 15 years of age has also peaked at 71.5 percent.
“Donors have been supportive to WFP’s operations in Yemen. With a new project focusing exclusively on women and girls, adequate resources would help us work with the government to make a real change in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Yemenis,” stressed El-Kouhene.
WFP has provided US$400 million of food assistance to Yemen since 1967, when the country was split into the Yemen Arab Republic and the South People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen.
The new Country Programme has already received a first donation from France of about US$635,000.
“We are confident that many other donors will come forward and support our work in Yemen,” said El-Kouhene.